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Category Archives: Cover Love

Over the moon for To the Moon!

OvertheMoonforToTheMoon.jpg

IMG_0349While I absolutely enjoy my adult fiction and nonfiction as an adult reader, my teen audience is what I think about most when reading. And after enjoying the Memorial Day holiday with plenty of books and outdoor reading (an indoor reading due to the rain), I find myself appreciative of publishers who adapt adult novels for teen audiences who will eventually grow into readers of the adult novels too.

Though, I daresay that these young reader adaptations are done so phenomenally well that a reader may never need to read the adult version. This is true of Malala Yousafzai’s story, The Boys in the Boat, and Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. I’ll add one more to the list: To the Moon!: The True Story of the American Heroes on the Apollo 8 Spaceship by Jeffrey Kluger and Ruby Shamir whose adult novel by Jeffrey Kluger is Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon.

Favorite characters: Of course, they need to be the real-life astronauts who took the mission when preparing for a later mission that left them in space during Christmas 1968. Each astronaut: Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman all shined with their personalities through Kluger’s adept writing and research with a particularly telling scene at the end when Kluger describes an epilogue of sorts after Apollo 8 and what the men went on to do: Borman smacked the pod they had just returned to Earth in and walked away, never looking back while the two other men went on to continue in the space program.

Favorite scenes: Each scene where Kluger skillfully describes the mission control station or training facility. I was particularly struck when he explains how you can tell the success of the mission based on the smell, look, and temperature of the food sitting alongside the NASA employees during the missions. In contrast or relationship to their faces and conversation when things go right and when things go wrong. It is thrilling to feel like a reader is working on the mission too.

Earthrise_Anders_ToTheMoonRefFavorite quote image: I had to look it up because I knew that it wasn’t the “blue marble” image, but when Kluger explains Anders’ shot of Earthrise, I had to bring up the image to get the full scale of some of the captivating images that they would have seen and excitingly, captured for us earthlings to see. It demonstrates the importance of not only space travel but the undying power of an image to put us in our place– in history, geographically, emotionally.

So while I can’t put my finger on one thing that made this story great, it was a confluence of all of the pieces of great storytelling. Narrative nonfiction chronicling the space race, astronauts and the sacrifices they and their families make, the inherent danger, the dreams we all have to be bigger than ourselves, but told in a way that the everyday person can understand it and be along for the ride. Who wouldn’t want (as Marilyn Lovell knows) to be gifted with a Christmas Day present from “the man in the moon”?

And in closing, back to my appreciation for young readers editions, here are a few others I’d like to see adapted for a younger audience: Jane Goodall’s In the Shadow of Man, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, Bill Schutt’s Cannibalism, and Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus.

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Sandwiches! Part I

Sandwiches Part I

About two weeks ago, I sat down to my snack-based lunch at work where I use this time less to “have lunch” but more to read and unplug for a brief time from the hundred  interactions per hour as a high school librarian.

Usually I focus this reading time on nonfiction, manga, or graphic novels, so I had pulled Sandwiches!: More Than You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering and illustrated by Bob Lentz. I’ll admit that the title was intriguing but the cover was absolutely magical. It’s bright colors, big sandwich, and cool font is the epitome of great advertising through cover design. As I hunkered down for the next thirty minutes, I was giggling, huh!-ing, and flipping through the pages like mad learning about the first known reference to a club sandwich to why the rise in supermarkets post-WWII led to the popularity of the BLT because tomatoes and lettuce became produce available all year round (58). I also ick-ed my way through some of the recommendations for customizing some of them. I shouted over to our technology guy to ask if he had heard of a name associated with a classic Italian submarine sandwich hero/hoagie/grinder that is apparently used by upstate New Yorkers (sadly he nor I have heard of that term EVER– so if you live in upstate New York and have used the term wedge, I want you to contact me!).

But herein lies the reason this book got a triple-five star rating from me. I learned stuff. It was about food. It was graphic. It was entertaining. It had a vivid pictorial style that grounded the book while keeping readers engaged. Readers can tell the author and illustrator had fun working on this project if from nothing else than their bios at the end where they add their favorite sandwich and how to make it. I resolved then and there to make every sandwich in the book and document it on my Instagram. Luckily, Deering and Lentz really did their research because I have sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, dinner, AND dessert (umm, the ice cream SANDWICH people!)  So thank you.

I’ll share just a few of the pictures and sandwiches so far, including my first post committing to making every sandwich. I received quite a few comments about friends wanting to come over after that! And it was apropos that the first sandwich was made when a friend who appreciates good food (and good books) was visiting. You’ll see several posts throughout the next few months sharing my culinary journey paying homage to “America’s favorite food”.

Have you ever been inspired to do, create, or build something after reading a book? Please share in the comments!

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A case for reading picture books

ACaseForReadingPictureBooks

This post was originally published on the Times Union Books Blog on March 24, 2018

Every reader has their preferences, yes, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sticking with them. Children know what they like, teens, and adults alike. But I want to make the case for adults (even after their children have grown, like the excuse that the grandchildren are coming over to buy chocolate milk when you’re the one that wants the taste) to read picture books.

PictureBooks

Why? You can usually take the pulse on what’s important socially. Which are getting awards and which are in store fronts? I guarantee they’re part of a national dialogue.

Why? Because they’re just so damn good. Visually, creatively, organizationally. Why scroll Pinterest when you can borrow a picture book? Need to present in a few weeks at work? Look at how a children’s book author can write a standard 32-page book with precision over and over and over again. It’s a science. And so are great presentations (if you’ve never seen this TED talk, it’s worth a look).

Why? They make great gifts for any age. We’re all a bit exhausted purchasing copies of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go in bulk for graduation gifts only because there librarians are waiting to recommend a few alternatives. Yet, the concept remains the same- picture books are elemental. Their dual simplicity and complexity astound us.

Of course I’m sharing this because I’m going to recommend a few that hit all the right buttons. So whether you’re 2 or 72, stop by your local independent bookstore to page through them, buy them to gift, or purchase to remind yourself of something from your own childhood worth remembering.


Du Iz Tak? By Carson Ellis

Focused on two damselflies with a language of its own, it’s an adventure of the natural world where readers can create their own annunciations to entertain young readers.

 

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James

Who doesn’t feel like they’re ready for the spotlight after a trip to the barber? It brings you right back or leaves you pulling at your own hair figuring that you’re overdue for one yourself.

 

Giant Squid by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann

The ocean’s depths are always fascinating but when you spotlight an equally mysterious creature and share little-known facts with vivid illustrations, anyone would wish to dive deep.

 

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

She’s certainly kept all of America captivated through her tenure on the Supreme Court. This just brings it to the littlest of people and demonstrates that healthy discourse isn’t something to fear.

 

Love by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Loren Long

This needs no introduction and if you didn’t read it after the last time I recommended it, consider yourself warned that you’d be missing out on a spiritual experience.

 

My Pet Wants a Pet by Elise Broach and illustrated by Eric Barclay

C’mon! Every pet needs a pet and our main character is just trying to be sure that each creature has some other creature to care for because how awesome it is to feel needed and loved.

 

Penguin Problems by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith

Nobody likes cranky people and that goes double for penguins. This hilarious romp might point out that you need to work on your growth mindset.

 

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

A brief paragraph with a powerful image of each woman who persisted along with a quote showing their perseverance from Nellie Bly to Virginia Apgar is a reminder to anyone to persist.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2018 in Childrens, Cover Love, Fiction

 

Whatcha been reading?

WhatchaBeenReading

March is a month of uncertainty– between weather in upstate New York (a fourth Nor’easter possible next week?!) to party schedules with numerous birthdays (including my own two sons’) and things to plan and schedule. Yet no matter what, I manage to squeeze in some reading. This is certainly not a “six sensational” list nor a glowing review of a five-star book I recently read, instead a snapshot of what I’ve been reading just in case you were about to ask.

 

  • Some true crime… The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz
    • Who doesn’t love true crime, honestly? Give me documentaries, podcasts, and books about real life crime dramas and I’m hooked!
  • Some middle grade… Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
    • Read this award-winner so that I can meet up with some librarians and eat some pizza and discuss some books #mykindofparty
  • Some re-tellings… The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice writing under her pen name A.N. Roquelaure
    • Ask me to tell you this story in person
  • Some nonfiction… Noah Webster: Man of Many Words by Catherine Reef
    • Who doesn’t love someone who loves words? And to know that many people disliked him made it even more fascinating
  • Some graphic novels… Speak illustrated by Emily Carroll based on Laurie Halse Anderson’s 2001 classic and another The Breadwinner: A Graphic Novel based on Deborah Ellis’ series of the same name adapted from the animated film available on Netflix that I literally watched a week before this book was shipping to our library through Junior Library Guild
    • I get that visual content appeals sometimes to a different audience, but I’d say both graphic adaptations captured the mood of the original books in a way that makes me adore them both.
  • Some feel-good humor and hijinks that never gets old… Lumberjanes: The Moon is Up by Mariko Tamaki
    • Three words: hecka heart eyes
  • Some more “love and madness”… Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge
    • I’ve already tweeted my adoration for the mashup of beautiful black and white images and the captivating story Judge shares about our favorite haunted woman who created a horror classic
  • Some women’s empowerment for Women’s History Month… What Would She Do?: 25 True Stories of Trailblazing Rebel Women by Kay Woodward
    • With a vivid cover and a unique voice, it stands above others being published in recent years focusing on women who made an impression

While these are just a handful, it’s a taste of the wide-ranging reading that I do daily because I follow my interests and passions, want to be sure I have books in my back pocket to recommend to my students, and heck, there’s just awesome books being published every day by awesome authors. If you want to follow every book I read, you can find me on Goodreads.

 

 

Covers to keep you warm or make you cold

CoverstoKeepyouWarmorMakeyouCold

Books covers to warm you up… 

AmericanPanda

Who doesn’t love hot chocolate with heaps of whipped cream?

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Patina

Running will certainly keep you warm.

Patina by Jason Reynolds

SunnySideUp

So will basking in the sun while sitting on a pool floatie like our title character, Sunny!

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm

Invisible

But a flame can only do so much, I’m sure you’d rather than a heater than a match. Invisible by Pete Hautman

90DaysofDifferent

And there’s only one thing that will get anyone thinking of summer and that’s ice cream. 90 Days of Different by Eric Walters

Book covers to keep you cold… 

AndWeStay

Even in tights, wearing a skirt in winter is it’s own kind of chilly. And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

TheSnowChild

A little girl with snow in her her bones and beautiful (but still cold) lashes lined with frost running around the Alaskan wilderness.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Peak

I make sure I’m bundled up on my way to the car, but Peak Marcello needs more to summit Mount Everest, that’s for sure.

Peak by Roland Smith

Winterdance

And speaking of extreme sports, what about the Iditarod that Gary Paulsen ran and wrote about several times?

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

IfYouComeSoftly

It looks beautiful, only if you’re not standing out in it.

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

 

Best of 2017: Six sensational YA + MG

I’m going to feature two “six sensational” lists: one for YA and MG and one for adult, so stay tuned for the adult list coming in a few days. But let’s focus in on the best published in 2017, not just what I read, but specifically what was published. And it was hard. So hard. Please don’t ask me to rank them one to six, simply it is a list of the six most sensational.

The irony is that I either specifically posted about the book I picked or had it in mind when I was posting about another topic. So beside a recap of why it belongs on this list, I’m linking to the previous post too.

LongWayDown1. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Here is the entire post where I featured Reynolds’ book, but he’s been making the rounds on social media and in pop culture by being featured as the sexiest author and professing the importance of poetry in turning kids on to literature. We need to listen to this voice in young adult and middle grade literature. Not only is he successful for both audiences, he inspires both youth and teachers and librarians.

GoodbyeDays2. Goodbye Days by Jeffrey Zentner

You’ll see more about Jeffrey Zentner in a post in April, since he’ll be visiting our high school library and it was after reading Goodbye Days that solidified the need for a visit. Clearly The Serpent King took everyone by storm, but to follow it up with another rock-solid, thoughtful, and contemporary story made him someone to pay attention too. Here was the original post on Goodbye Days. It makes us think about the different people we are in different situations and also the consequences of one bad decision.

whatgirlsaremadeof3. What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold

I know ’em when I see ’em and I will always read Arnold’s books. They are haunting, imaginative, and unique. Not for every reader, but when they’re the right ones, it’s like magic. The post focused on the tragedy of the main character which was painful but evocative, which is obviously why it also made the National Book Award finals. The book is deep and painful like Demetrios’ Bad Romance and worth taking note.

Pashmina4. Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

While I didn’t post directly about Chanani’s graphic novel for middle grade readers, I had it in mind for the post Cover love. Specifically after reading this article on the cover development of the graphic novel. As a reader, I’m always curious about the design process for the superb covers and what went wrong when they turn out bad (and I’ll not talk about the publishers who slap the movie posters on the covers of books-turned-to-movies because UGH, I can’t even go there).

Snow&Rose5. Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

It is no secret that I’m a fan of a fairy tale retelling as evidenced by my obsession with the Beau Rivage series Sarah Cross pens. And this one was a sleeper, an ARC I received at an event that I got lost in. As with the best ones, I featured the book in this post, and think its value is in the cyclical storytelling that focused on family and friendship in a magical forest. Martin is a captivating writer that does not hide darker elements with the fluffier side of fantasy.

WordsonBathroomWalls6. Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton

Score another one for young adult novels that focus on mental health topics but the humor and engaging characters are what caught me off guard and the reason for the post on Walton’s book. Adam has schizophrenia and is dealing with everyone’s fear of him while trying to find a balance and a relationship. The character development was fully-realized from the main character through secondary characters and provided a balance of perspectives and included a very recent tragedy to demonstrate the fear society sometimes has for those with mental illness.

 

Insta-reviews part II

This post originally appeared on the Times Union books blog

As the end of the month ended with a bang for Halloween and a particularly spooky prompt for the Book Riot #riotgrams challenge, I’ll share a few more recommendations via the challenge along with their photogenic counterparts as the final post to my initial one on October 15th.

2017-10-31 06.34.26Odd & True by Cat Winters

I’ll start with yesterday’s Halloween post that I had waited all month to photograph and share. It is no secret from some of my reviews on my personal blog that I am a dedicated Cat Winters fan. Her writing is atmospheric, thoughtful, and beautiful always touching on topics like feminism, race, and death. In her newest book, though shallowly thought to be a magical story about monsters is really a story of relationships set in 1909.

This post’s inspiration was get spooky.

 

2017-10-30 13.41.27

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

And talk about books that go way deeper than the surface story! Lee’s book explores themes of class, race, and sexuality in the 1700s with teenage characters living in the shadow of their parents’ expectations. It’s the hijinks and humor that plays to Monty’s bisexuality and Percy’s epilepsy and skin color as they are robbed by highwaymen and Monty’s little sister secretly (oh my!) learns science rather than truly caring about “being a lady” and attending finishing school.  It’s a haul at more than 500 pages, but it’s so easily read that it flew by.

This post’s inspiration was best side character.

2017-10-17 14.17.18-1Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

The next two books explore the female experience and being Latina. In Gabi, her father’s meth addiction and her mother’s decision to have a baby in Gabi’s senior year of high school are nothing compared to her struggles to navigate impending adulthood. Her biting humor told in epistolary form (that I’m sometimes wary of) works perfectly to tell her story. Her voice is engaging and the few illustrations added for effect are reminiscent of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

This post’s inspiration was weirdest book cover.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez2017-10-29 07.24.54

Speaking of realistic, remember when I said the next two books were exploring being Latina and the female experience? I just finished this one last night and adored it. It is Gabi with an edge of mystery. Gabi’s experiences are forthright while Julia must uncover the secrets in her own family including her parents’ travel across the border illegally and who her dead twenty-something year old sister really was. Her depression nearly takes her life, but in the recuperation she learns to look at her family with new eyes and appreciate her complexities.

This post’s inspiration was a recent acquisition.

2017-10-15 08.53.41Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Then there’s the complexity of poetry. And the seamless magic that Kaur weaves in this collection. I have not yet picked up her recent publication The Sun and Her Flowers, but I will in short order. And there’s a reason it is a popular title among teens since Kaur dives into abuse and violence but also love in a roller coaster of emotions with my favorite lines at the end of the book: “i want to apologize to all the women / i have called pretty / before i’ve called them intelligent or brave / i am sorry i made it sound as though / something as simple as what you’re born with / is the most you have to be proud of when your / spirit has crushed mountains / from now on i will say things like / you are resilient or you are extraordinary / not because i don’t think you’re pretty / but because you are so much more than that”

This post’s inspiration was poetry.

I wholeheartedly recommend these titles whether you’re nineteen or forty-nine because they speak to relationships that encourage reflection on who we are. And while we’re months away from the barrage of “best of” the year lists and resolutions for our future selves, all the titles provide a mirror or a doorway to think about ourselves.